Immortality -- By: John Bascom

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 066:261 (Jan 1909)
Article: Immortality
Author: John Bascom


Ex-President John Bascom

While the doctrine of immortality has, in the development of human life, gained in comprehensiveness and in the conviction with which it lays hold of the mind, it is still very far from being possessed of its full force. It remains much less distinct, much less stimulating, much less corrective and consolatory, than it of right ought to be. The scope of life is entirely altered by it, and its best incentives cannot be profoundly and pleasurably felt without it. Whatever view we may hold of the dignity of human nature, of the self-contained and self-rewarding character of its virtues, still the motives of attainment and the rewards of attainment are greatly reduced in value by the brevity of our lives. The morning is bright, but the sky is soon clouded over; a storm is at hand, and this passes into the darkness of night. Natures intense and broad are dwarfed by the littleness of little things crowding constantly upon them. The world is held at arm’s length only by an exhaustive effort, and the same sense of defeat creeps stealthily in upon all. The duration of the race brings no relief to the solitude of the individual, but the reverse rather. Those whose life we would share pass on, and we are left behind. The im-

mortality of the race is only the accumulated mortality of its constituents, and out of these pitiful products no great sums can be compounded.

As a matter of fact the human spirit is much expanded and comforted by the doctrine of immortality, even as now held, though we pursue our path with uncertain and trembling steps. We go to the grave with reluctance, we find consolation in forgetfulness, and there is no cheerful road between the two worlds familiar to our feet. We believe with a spasmodic effort of faith which wrenches the soul while it heals it.

Why is this? If we are immortal, that immortality is deeply planted in our nature, and will spring from it not less certainly, and with no more mystery, than the flower and the fruit from the bud pregnant with them. If we are able with hope to scatter the seed year after year, we should be able as cheerfully to commend our spirits to the resuscitative power of the spiritual world.

Undoubtedly the reasons of this timidity are close at hand, yet they are reasons which insight and courage should overcome. Immortality is not so connected with the physical world as to be a matter of experience or of prediction. The most we can say of the physical relations of a future life is that there is nothing in our present dependencies to disprove new and higher dependencies. We float on seas whose sustaining power we never fully understand, and it is presumption for us to say that there ...

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